The Best Thai Restaurants In NYC

All our favorite spots for laab, curries, pad thai, and more.
a few Thai dishes from Soothr

photo credit: Emily Schindler

There are a lot of great Thai restaurants in New York City, and much like Mets fans and people who knew The Ramones as children, many of them are in Queens. But no matter where you are, you can trust there’s a great option nearby. These spots cover a variety of regional styles, and you’ll find something on our list that’s perfect for every situation, from a quick solo lunch to a big night with out-of-towners. Here are some of our favorite Thai restaurants in NYC.


photo credit: Teddy Wolff



$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsCasual Weeknight DinnerWalk-Ins
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Ayada is one of our favorite Thai spots in Elmhurst, partly because of its sprawling menu. Eat the drunken noodles and panang curry here, and it’ll make you question all the other drunken noodles and panang curry you’ve had elsewhere. Their raw shrimp salad is another one of the dishes we think about constantly, and if you want a different kind of raw shellfish, they make an excellent som tum with chunks of shell-on blue crab mixed in. Bring a group, and try to eat in the slightly more charming dining room on the right.

Though we still miss Thai Diner’s iconic sister restaurant Uncle Boon’s, the food at this top city restaurant has gotten even better since it opened in 2020. We particularly love getting breakfast in the thatched room in Nolita: sausage egg and cheese on roti, babka french toast drizzled in Thai tea glaze, and a delicious cheesesteak with ribeye, Thai basil, chiles, and garlic. But Thai Diner is just as incredible for dinner with a friend, when you can split creamy khao soi with pickled mustard greens or fried chicken laab. Breakfast and lunch offerings are served until 5pm every day and you can expect a wait during peak meal hours.

Hug Esan is on the same block in Elmhurst as some of our other favorite Thai spots, like Zaab Zaab and Ayada, and it might be our current favorite. Get a group together and settle into the tiny, vibrant dining room for a meal you’re going to be talking about for a while. Build your order around a whole tilapia: it comes grilled or fried, and both choices are correct. You should also get a bowl of spicy mee ka tee or khao piak sen, a meat-heavy soup thickened with pork blood. Round out your meal with some salads and small bites. We’re especially partial to the grilled chicken livers and crispy frog legs.

If Ugly Baby were a person, it would probably be the loudest one in any given room. And we mean that as a compliment. The food at this Carroll Gardens spot tends to be bright and flavorful (like the mural-covered walls), with a good amount of heat on a lot of the dishes. So if you’re feeling disillusioned and need to be reminded why you get out of bed in the morning and bother going to restaurants, come here. The menu here changes with the seasons, but starting with a fruit salad, and splitting a curry or khao soi is always an option.

photo credit: Emily Schindler



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Some restaurants serve spicy food that’s like a punch in the face. It hits hard, then you’re down for the count. At Kru, an upscale spot in Williamsburg that specializes in modern takes on century-old Thai recipes, the heat shouldn't be discounted, but it’s not here to knock you out. The food is nuanced, layered, and delicate. Order correctly, and you can have a transformative meal. Start with some small bites, then move on to relish plates, which rely heavily on local, seasonal produce paired with a slew of dips. Once you’re warmed up, move on to curries (the beef tongue is their speciality), and save room for desserts like peach melba with fermented rice yogurt ice cream.

Soothr is an East Village restaurant that serves central Thai dishes, like sukhotthai tom yum noodles and specialties from Bangkok’s Chinatown hub. Whatever you do, order the koong karee—it has a gooey shrimp-and-egg consistency, and every bite tastes like shrimp paste just called curry powder to say "I love you." The dining room is huge, with a lively bar and mood lighting that make this one of our go-to Thai spots for a nice night out. And their gazebo-like backyard is one of our favorite summer dinner spots. They have a newer spot in the West Village called Sappe, which specializes in skewers and drinking snacks.

Somtum Der is an East Village spot that specializes in Isan Thai food, and it’s one of our favorite places for a fun, casual dinner with a big group. The dining room is big and airy, with lots of long tables that will easily fit five to seven of your friends, and they have a good list of cocktails and Thai beer. Multiple types of papaya salad should be on your table: our go-tos are the tum thai kai kem, which gets an extra punch from salted duck egg, and the tum poo pla-ra with tiny field crabs. Next, get the hors d'ouevre der so you can try all the sausages, and finish with grilled meats, larb, and some spicy prawn sashimi.  

Just a few blocks away from Hug Esan and the rest of the little Bangkok spots, Saranrom Thai is right up there with some of the other big names in Elmhurst. Come with a small group, enjoy some bright, refreshing sake-based cocktails and get distracted by the reruns of Top Chef: Thailand that always seem to be on. The food doesn’t stick to one particular region, so feel free to order around the menu. Our perfect meal starts with a papaya salad, an order of the yum pla duk fu: a mango salad with shredded and fried catfish that is not to be missed. Grab a few curries and fragrant kee mao Thai (with some of the longest rice noodles we’ve ever seen), and finish off your meal with durian sticky rice.

photo credit: Noah Devereaux

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner

Within a few minutes of walking through the door of this counter-service, cash-only spot in Elmhurst, you’ll be eating some of the best Thai food in the city. You’ll see whatever’s available in the rows of heated pans behind the counter, and for less than $15, you can get a selection of three entrees over a heap of rice. The fried garlic pork and ka pao moo are reliably delicious, but we tend to concentrate on the curries when we come here. Try the southern sour curry packed with fish and bamboo shoots, and get some tapioca pudding with bits of corn for dessert.

If we were 100% certain it wouldn’t get into our eyes, ears, and noses, we’d dive into a pool of the coconut crab curry from Fish Cheeks in Noho. It’s a little sweet with a good amount of spice and big chunks of crab hidden on the bottom, and we often eat it straight without any of the rice on the side. The fragrant po tak soup is another great thing to share with one or two people (the portions here are mostly family-size), and we love the fact that every table gets free shrimp chips with dense, fishy chili jam. The only thing we don’t like about Fish Cheeks is how tough it is to make a reservation. The bright, noisy space is always packed, even on a Monday—but if you don’t mind drinking somewhere else for an hour or so, just put your name in for a few seats at the bar.

Wayla is an LES spot with perpetual birthday party energy. It’s dark and dungeon-like, your cocktail will contain at least one piece of fruit or flora, and there’s a beautiful backyard you could put on a postcard and send to someone abroad. The food here, like the crispy fried chunks of branzino, slightly sweet noodles spilling out of a lobster’s head, and noodle-wrapped meatballs will always make you feel just the right amount of deluxe. Come with a few friends, and dinner will essentially be a party with better catering than at most birthday parties, weddings, and first communions.

The two-block stretch in Elmhurst that’s home to Khao Kang and Ayada is an intimidating place to open a Thai restaurant. But Zaab Zaab, an Isan Thai spot serving dishes packed with lots of chilies, herbs, and lemongrass, holds its own and then some. The menu is broken up into a bunch of different sections (grilled, fish, som tum, etc.), and you should treat it like an urgent checklist. Get the juicy larb with crispy duck skin and bits of chewy liver, and be sure to have a hot pot in the middle of your table. If you’re a party of six or more, you can call for a reservation, otherwise, stop by with one other person and grab a table on the little astroturf patio.

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